I recently made friends with a Christian in a distant country (aren’t e-mail and Skype terrific?!), and in the course of our friendship she asked for prayer for some members of her extended family, because they were in the midst of a family crisis. So I began a period of earnest prayer for her and for them, and we were both rather amazed, after a few months, to see the Lord answer these prayers most expansively. The Holy Spirit moved more broadly in her family than anyone had expected, and in fact His work among them is still ongoing and rich.
Her family members were of course most grateful for the Lord’s salvation as He called them to Himself, and as He showed Himself in power among them. But they were also grateful that a Christian brother in a distant land– a man they had never even met, and who had no other connection with them– had been praying faithfully for them. Their gratitude expressed itself in a most natural way: they began praying for me, and for my own church. Isn’t this marvelous?
They were aware that there was no way they could repay the Lord Jesus for His grace revealed in and among them, and they were also aware that they couldn’t (and possibly even shouldn’t) try to repay me in any tangible way. But their gratitude had to be expressed, and so they expressed it in a way that they had come to learn was real and was effective: they lifted up my church before the throne of grace, in prayer for us. And, by the design of the Holy Spirit in building His Church, this was now an instance of the Body of Christ causing ‘the growth of the Body for the building up of itself in love’ (Eph. 4:16).
Have you ever thought about prayer as an expression of love? Have you thought of intercessory prayer for friends and family who are distant as a means of asking the Lord to watch over them and shield them with His love, because you yourself are prevented from doing so because of geography or other complications? If you are prone to episodes of unrequited love (or even just ‘unrequited like’), have you considered that one way to show your love for that person who is at an emotional distance is to pray for them, for their well-being, and for the Lord’s blessing upon them? And in fact, if it is indeed love that you have for this person, there is absolutely no better way to love them truly and biblically than to pray for them. (For those reading this who are perhaps curious, yes, I do have a lot of experience in this!– more’s the pity.)
Prayer is an absolutely marvelous way to express your love, because you are seeking the Lord’s best for that person. As you grow in your own prayer-life and in your understanding of intercessory prayer, in fact you will find yourself increasingly praying not just for temporal things for them but eternal things. As a result, because our God is alive and answers prayer, you will be a factor in changing Eternity. Wow!!
One of my closest friends has said that he attributes the spiritual health of his three children to the fact that, as I was significantly involved in their upbringing when they were young, I was praying for them frequently and fervently. They are now all adults (the youngest turned 21 just days ago), and they are marvelous, marvelous human beings, with real and deepening relationships with the Lord and with His people.
Is there someone for whom you care but are prevented from showing them love? Pray for them, and allow yourself to be a channel of true love for them.